Conclusions for dissertations and theses

Conclusions for dissertations and theses

When writing longer pieces of work, it is still very important to observe some of the principles mentioned previously. For instance, you will still want to ensure that your conclusion really does conclude, and does not just go off at a tangent to discuss something that is unrelated to the thesis. Some people believe (mistakenly) that a conclusion is the place for you to relax and 'say whatever you want'. This is incorrect. If you do this, you will be likely to be marked down.

There are also likely to be some key differences in your approach when writing conclusions. Certainly, conclusions will be even more important in a dissertation or thesis, purely because of the length of the piece. Among the differences you will notice are the following:

  • As well as having an overall conclusion to your dissertation or thesis, each chapter should also have a conclusion (as well as an introduction). The reason for this is that in a longer piece of writing, it becomes more important to remind the reader of what you have done and why you have done it, before you move onto the next stage.
  • The conclusion of a dissertation or thesis is not an opportunity to engage in a personal 'rant'. You must draw out key aspects of the literature you have studied along with your recommendations and say how they are justified or contradicted by your research.
  • It is a good idea in a chapter conclusion to remind the reader what happened in the chapter (For example: In this chapter, the literature relating to the teaching of vocabulary was considered.). After this, you need to build a bridge linking this chapter with the next one. (This will be further discussed in the next chapter.)
  • In a dissertation or thesis, there is likely to be a longer section on the limitations of your research. Important though this is, however, you also need to be sure to sell your research in the conclusion - so it is best not to be too negative or over-modest about your achievements at this point. The key to many dissertations and theses is the need to emphasise the contribution that it makes to research.
  • In a dissertation or thesis, it is more likely that you will have a section on the need for future research. In an MA or MSc dissertation you may like to suggest something that could be developed from your work as a PhD thesis. In a PhD thesis you may like to indicate some potential for post-doctoral work.
When writing an assignment, be careful of the following points:
  • The topic you are writing about may not always require a full conclusion (this is particularly the case if your work is heavily analytical or mathematical, or not very discursive). Remember not all assignments require discussion. Check what the expectations are in your own department. Ask your tutor if you are not sure.
  • Even if you do not need a full conclusion, remember that any assignment nearly always needs to be rounded off in some way and brought to an end. Consider this: will the reader will know that you have finished your work? (Or will they just think that you have run out of time - or energy)?
  • Keep in mind the balance of your assignment. The conclusion should be clear and relatively brief.